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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 27, 2004

Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Each week's best letter gets our 'letter of the week' award. We look for for letters that contain strong, well-presented opinions; humour; useful information or unusual levels of sheer helpfulness.

Please email your correspondence to

Recent letters

Climbers and sprinters
How to lean in corners
Chubby Lance?
How many more have to die?
Stage 3 of di Lucca
Cross wheels
Fixed gear
Tour de France 2004
Lance bikes
Mt Wallace climb
Oenone Wood
Oscar Egg bicycle


Letter of the week

A signed copy of William Fotheringham's Tom Simpson bio is on its way to Peter.
Click for larger image

Climbers and sprinters

Recreational bicycling has to be one of the most fun sports. But it seems that professional bicycling can be one of the cruelest sports, because it has such enormous demands for preparation and training, as well as the races themselves.

And of the professional cyclists, it does seem the mountain climbers have it hardest. They visibly perform at the extreme limits of human endurance, perhaps several times in a day. Which may leave a toll, not just on the body, but on relationships and personal life and life after cycling. I'm thinking not just of Marco Pantani, but of Jose Maria Jimenez, and other climbers you're mentioned recently.

The sprinters seem to have it easier. They can tag along with the peloton, and their main effort may be just one explosive short burst at the finish.

I used to think the sprinters were often wimps, they'd collect stage wins one after another in the flat first part of the Tour de France, then regularly they'd just quit and drop out as soon as they hit the mountains.

But now I think the sprinters may just be reasonable people, who prefer to spend time with friends and family and enjoy life, rather than drag themselves over one pass and another. The climbers deserve admiration and respect, but what they put themselves through may just not be healthy, in the long run.

Peter Nurkse
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

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How to lean in corners

Counter-steering is not an optional technique. As soon as the bike (motorcycle or bicycle) is going fast enough, we counter-steer, consciously or un. Motorcycle racers (or anybody who has done a track course) counter-steer consciously, because it is a great technique for placing the bike with a great deal of precision. Everybody else counter-steers unconsciously - or perhaps I mean subconsciously.

The whole issue of steering two wheeled vehicles very rapidly deteriorates into a religious war. The options are very simple - either you lean more and hold the bike more upright, or you lean the bike more and you stay more upright. Experiment, pick one that you feel comfortable with and then - and this is the important bit - tell everybody who uses the other technique that they are completely wrong, and putting themselves and their bike in danger. Psychology plays an important role in cycling.

Keep the black bits pointing downwards

James Reinhardt
Cape Town, Brightest Africa
Friday, February 13, 2004

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Chubby Lance?

I've been checking out some of the photos from Algarve, and it looks to me like Lance is just a little overweight. Check it out.

Maybe it's just the angle of the photo -- or maybe Lance really has been eating those doughnuts. Anyway, I know it's only February, but does anyone else see a potential problem here?

Philip Higgs (who hasn't been on a bike since December 6)
Boulder, CO
Saturday, February 21, 2004

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How many more have to die?

Marco Pantani and Johan Sermon, two cyclists who died just recently. Last year, at least four pros died because of heart failures. I am a molecular biologist and as such I know a little about equilibriums in living systems. What all those deaths are telling us is that doping must be MASSIVE in cycling. The news about Johan Sermon says that his hematocrit was actually less than average. Well, if you stop boosting it, you would expect exactly that, because the body is used to rely on external stimuli. Also, in the off season, you do not need a high hematocrit.

Professional cycling seems to be a VERY, VERY sick sport. I am an avid cyclist myself but I prefer going to local races to watching the pros on TV. In my humble opinion, the hypocrisy about doping should stop. A radical measure should be taken. I do not have a solution, but to have professional athletes is perhaps an idiocy. Perhaps sports should be just for fun and not for money. Again, doing a local race is much more fun than any pro event.

Libor Krasny
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Monday, February 16, 2004

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Stage 3 of di Lucca

I just read the race report from stage 3 of the Giro della Provincia di Lucca, and I have to say that this is one of the strangest race reports I have ever read. You would have to be a really big fan of cycling to go watch tomorrow's race in person.

Martin McEwen
Montreal Canada
Thursday, February 26, 2004

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Cross wheels #1

In regards to Mr. Faulk's observations I have found that the deep section rims I have used for cross work great for a variety of reasons. One is that I am a big guy. I rode a pair of Mavic MA3 with Shimano hubs for a few months. They went out of true just looking at a rock!! I then switched to Campy Sydney 2000 rims, which have a nearly 30mm deep section, and have only had to true them twice in six years!! One of the benefits of the aero rim is that the deep section has a tendency to roll through mud. muck, grass and sand without washout. The taller rim profile seems to act as a plow and move the obstacles out of the way of the rim. In addition the taller profile allows for shorter spoke lengths making (theoretically) for a stronger wheel. And for a big guy riding off-road this is a definite plus. As for the aerodynamic qualities of the rims, in cross the benefit is negligible since the speeds that you ride at are so much slower (overall) than in a road race. There are courses and situations where this may be favorable but usually the aero-ness of the rim is of no value.

James Darlow
Sacramento, CA
Thursday, February 12, 2004

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Cross wheels #2

Although it might not appear so at first glance, aerodynamics do in fact play a role in cross races. Unlike road races or crits, where riders have the opportunity to ride in a pack, cross racers generally spend a good amount of time strung out on the course. They may have the opportunity to sit in on individual riders and draft, but you won't see any packs that are three riders wide on the course. In this sense, it might be helpful to think of a cross race as a very fast mountain bike race, with no sustained climbing. For this reason, the deep-dished aero wheels do provide some benefit during a cross race.

A more compelling reason for using deep-dish rims, however, is that they provide an enormous amount of surface area for manufacturers/sponsors to slap their logos…

Justin Forbes
Del Mar, CA
Monday, February 16, 2004

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Cross wheels #3

In response to your cyclo cross carbon fiber Wheels question.... as far as I'm concerned its all about money. For me cyclo cross was the last stand for bikers on a budget that wanted to compete in some way. It was also a way to get some use out of that older road or touring bike gathering dust in the garage. It was fun, fast, dirty and laid back. In the last few years the larger bike and bike equipment companies have noticed that there is a market for the sport so prices are on the rise (of course). There was a time in cross when, if you were riding a bike with Ultegra components, people thought you were crazy. "Why waste your money?" most would say. Now I'm seeing Dura-Ace kits out there! So the fact they are now rolling around on carbon fiber wheels in not surprising. That's just plain madness to me. I gave up on cyclo cross because of the rising cost of the equipment... It was eating into my road biking budget (which is where I expect to spend lots of cash) The riders are as much to blame as the industry. They are buying the carbon fiber "cyclo cross" wheels, sometimes faster than the companies can make them. The lust for gear that roadies have (myself included) has crossed over to Cross. That's unfortunate because it was the last stand for cheap cycling competition.

Warren Beckford
Bloomfield, CT - USA
Friday, February 13, 2004

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Doping #1

Ken, I don't think that cycling is the dirtiest sport. I think cycling gets an unfair amount of negative media attention-especially since '98. In the US we are treated to two kinds of cycling stories from the mainstream media- Lance or doping. But look at the rest of the sports world:

Track and Field has had a number of high profile positive tests recently, and charges that some federations failed to report on the tests in the past.

Cross country skiing had several athletes test positive for Aranesp (?sp) at the last Olympics and a few EPO violations the last couple of seasons.

Tennis was hit with a bunch of Nandrolone findings.

And these are some of the sports that test on a regular basis-but far less than cycling. The problems in other sports never come to light because they simply don't do any testing or they do what a number of US pro leagues do-give an enormous warning, sometimes months, and test only a handful of athletes. Many of the leagues only test if the player gets caught with things like marijuana or cocaine, or is arrested for drunk driving.

Imagine the fallout if every NFL or MLB player was tested with no warning several times a year. Baseball still deludes itself that there is no steroid issue in the game. A couple of years ago, some people were suspicious that Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was using steroids. He nobly offered to take a blood test anytime, anywhere. The players' union cracked down on him harshly and he recanted the offer the next day. I think more NBA players get busted with pot every year (from a much smaller group of athletes) than there are positive epo tests in cycling.

Cycling has probably the most complete drug testing and health checks of any sport. While there are some cyclists that are still tempted to cheat, other sports do far less to clean up their acts.

Steve F
Pasadena CA
Thursday, February 12, 2004

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Doping #2

I am a new cycling fan and have been following the sport for several years. As I enjoy reading about the racing I can't believe how much churn there is about doping in the sport. In addition to the current problems reported in the press it seems that people in the sport tacitly admit that historically many of the great prizes in cycling have been won by athletes who have benefited from doping. Everyone says that cyclist are the most tested athletes. Obviously the current system of testing is worthless if riders like Gaumont who have doped regularly can compete for many years and be tested many times but not be caught. I think cycling needs to take a fresh look at what's being done to prevent doping and all those involved in the sport make an all out effort to stopping it.

I think team management must become the first line of defense against doping. Management must be held much more responsible whenever any riders on the team are caught doping. Heavy graduated fines and suspensions of team managers and race directors should be automatic whenever a rider tests positive. The penalties must be severe enough that team official have no choice but to pursue anti-doping with as much attention to detail and vigor as they do racing, training, obtaining sponsorship and recruiting new riders. In addition to the current testing system, all teams should be required to regularly test their own riders to protect themselves and the sport. The teams are aware of the rider's current state of health, fitness and training activities and should be the most effective monitor for riders using illegal substances. Even if an individual rider takes it upon himself to dope without the knowledge or involvement of the team, management should still be held responsible for not detecting the cheat and preventing him from competing with clean riders. Management must be responsible for instilling an ethic in their riders that rejects doping and won't tolerate it from others in the peloton. The sport needs a system that gives teams no choice but to do this.

I have no real experience or practical involvement in the sport so perhaps my ideas above are naïve and there are better methods for stopping doping. However, I believe my sense that many people in the sport would be relieved if doping was undiscovered and not publicized has some validity. This must be replace with an aggressive system of research, investigation, self accountability and education by both team management and their riders. Everyone must be certain that competitions are clean so that future champion's incredible sacrifices and courage in earning victories get the respect they deserve and not behind the back comments wondering how their performance was achieved.

Mark Sweat
Encinitas, California
Thursday, February 26, 2004

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Fixed gear

After 15 years of serious riding, I finally bit the bullet late last year and put together a gorgeous, dedicated fixed gear road bike. I love this bike and I do indeed feel like riding it occasionally this winter has enhanced my off-season training; I will be anxious to see what my perceptions translate into as the racing season picks up.

My question is this: here in the states, at least, fixed gear bikes appear to have enjoyed a renaissance of late, but do any of the pros actually use them anymore for serious training? Old school conventional wisdom seemed to dictate the use of these bikes for winter base miles, but have the unbelievable advances in training technique obviated the need to use one at all? I never hear about or see any pictures of the pros riding fixed gears, and out of curiosity I would be interested to know if anyone knows about the fixed gear training habits of any pro in the modern peloton.

New Mexico
Saturday, February 14, 2004

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Tour de France 2004 #1

If all of the primary contenders stay healthy (except Hamilton who will ride regardless of health status), this year's Tour will be the most exciting, most watched Tour ever. Walter Godefroot will bring perhaps the most powerful Grand Tour squad ever assembled and Ullrich only has to make up 1'01" from last year. T-Mobile's team time trialing skills will be far superior to Bianchi's and Jan will have much better support in the mountains. Can Azevedo adequately replace Heras? Lance has his work cut out for him. He'll be ready. This year's Tour has the potential to be an epic one. The wait till July is longer than usual this year.

But back to your point, here's 1 vote for a Bettini WC threepeat.

PS: Did not Michele Bartoli win Lombardia?

Tom Atherholt
New Jersey, USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Tour de France 2004 32

Here's my two penn'orth.

Ullrich - historically he's never dealt well with pressure and expectations. This year there is more expectation on him than ever, he has been on lots of magazines already and it is only February. I predict a tour flop especially of Lance drops him on the first big climb of the race.

Armstrong - a couple of big doubts, firstly the famous template has been drastically altered understandably due to family commitments. Secondly, the aura of invincibility has gone. All that being said he is still the best all round rider and he has an incredible will to win.

I believe the ground will be set with the stage to La Mongie, if Lance feels good I expect a patented attack, the question is will everyone else then be content to race for second place?

I'm going for Lance by 3 minutes.

Simon Denton
Exeter, Devon, UK
Friday, February 13, 2004

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Lance bikes

A couple of observations from the images from this week's Volta ao Algarve - with an eye on Lance's machinery in particular:

#1) Looks like Lance has ditched the Madone 5.9 in favor of the 5900 Superlight. It could be a new frame he's riding, but the seat tube certainly doesn't have the fairing that is a trademark of the Madone. Lance made the switch mid-tour last year... it doesn't look like he's gone back to the Madone since.

#2) Lance's new hand position looks eerily similar to the man he calls his #1 challenger for Le Tour this year. I'd invite you to compare Lance's new hand position on his TT bike and Jan's set-up from last year's Tour. Imitation is definitely the best form of flattery -- kudos to Lance for trying to optimize his aero set-up after a couple of TT setbacks last year.

If today's victory is any measure, TT animals Ullrich, Hamilton & Millar should take notice.

Graham Rigby
Evanston, IL
Saturday, February 21, 2004

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Cyclingnews editors Jeff Jones and John Stevenson reply:

It certainly does seem like the Madone isn't Lance's choice at the moment - but when you've won five Tours and are going for a sixth, you get the right to be very, very picky.

As for the position, it does appear he's lowered his hands slightly, and cut off the ends of the aero bar. The rest of the bike looks (for all intents and purposes) to be identical. Apart from the colour. To us it doesn't look as though this "new position" will make any difference, but we're not testing in a wind tunnel...

Mt Wallace climb

So what are the stats on the Mt. Wallace climb in the Geelong Tour? From the photos it looks very steep near the top. Some of the photos of the girls climbing were painful just looking at them. And congrats to Oenone!

Brendan Marshall
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

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Oenone Wood

A shout from the US to ask a dumb question. How in the heck do you pronounce Oenone? It's definitely not a common name. My girlfriend is a Kiwi and both my neighbors are Aussies but they've never seen it before. Help me!

Steve Farris
Silver City NM
Monday, February 23, 2004

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It's "En-oh-nee" with the emphasis on the "oh". The name comes from Greek mythology. Oenone was a wood nymph who bore Paris a child, before Paris ran off to Troy with Helen [thanks Richard Alford].

Oscar Egg bicycle

A reader, Guy Roig, wrote in 2001 to say that he had an Oscar Egg cycle hanging in his garage. I would very much like to get in touch as I have a probably pre-war Oscar Egg and I need a good picture of the transfers that should go on it. If Mr Roig is still a reader, I would be grateful if he would get in touch. If anyone else has an Oscar Egg, I would love to hear from them.

Stuart Tallack
Thursday, February 19, 2004

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Recent letters pages

  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 1
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 2
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 3
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 4
  • February 16 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani
  • February 13 letters - Sevilla challenging for the Tour?, How will the Tour 2004 unfold?, Tour de France 2004, Marion Clignet diary: Training with the boys, More to cycling than the Tour, Teams & sponsors, Cross wheels, Doping, How to lean in corners, Phil, Paul and Bob
  • February 6 letters - Tour of Qatar, Team names, Australian team, National & world jerseys & regulations, Tour de France 2004, How to lean in corners?, Cyclo-cross & more in Japan
  • February 2 letters - Australian team, Cofidis: All publicity is good publicity? Anyone Traveling to TDF 2004? 24 hour race timing, World Jerseys, Team Names, Training location, How to lean in corners? Mullet time again? Tour de France 2004, Aussies Around the World
  • January 27 letters - Embarrassing Team names presented by Corporate Sponsors, Cycling and the heart, David McPartland, Tour de France 2004, Tour de France - Visiting, 24 hour race timing, How to lean in corners?, Mullet time again?, Riding Etiquette, Tom Simpson Ventoux Monument, World Jerseys, Wust on Armstrong, Zarrabeitia interview
  • January 14 letters - Cycling over-represented in heart fatalities, Fitness?, Tour de France 2004, Greatest of all time, Adham Sbeih, Clinger to fill Cipo's shoes?, How to lean in corners?, Riding Etiquette, Tom Simpson Ventoux Monument, Reader Poll - Best Bike, Tour de France - Visiting, The Ras
  • January 4 letters - Greatest of all time?, Reader Poll - Rider of the Year, Geniuses Feature, Flemish Flags, Adham Sbeih, Mountain Biking and Doping, Tour 2004, Heras: Mission Impossible?, Put me back on my bike
  • December 24 letters - Inverell Track Open, Tour 2004, Roberto Heras, Greatest of all time?, Mountain Biking and Doping, Positive Tests, Geniuses Feature
  • December 19 letters - Heras: Mission Impossible?, Eating Disorders and Cycling, Tour 2004, Garzelli, Greatest of all time?, Geniuses
  • December 12 letters special: Vale Jiménez - Cyclingnews readers bid farewell to Spanish rider José María Jiménez (more letters added December 24)
  • December 5 letters - Learning respect, Heras transfer, Beloki's choice of team, Roberto Heras, Simoni's challenge, Greatest of all time?, Giro d'Italia stage for the public, Put me back on my bike
  • November 28 letters - Anonymous sources, Simoni's challenge, Bobby Julich, Beloki's choice of team, Floyd Landis, Punishing fatal driving, Roberto Heras, Greatest of all time?, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Put me back on my bike, Tour climbers analysed, Giro d'Italia stage for the public
  • November 21 letters - Tour climbers analysed, Beloki's choice of team, Simoni's Challenge, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, UCI plans, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004 - TTT rule change, Punishing fatal driving, Hamilton world's, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted, Put me back on my bike
  • November 14 letters - Simoni's Challenge, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004, Heather French Henry, Drugs in Cycling and in Baseball, VDB, Uphill Battle, Armstrong's inspiration?, Bobby Julich at world's, IteamNova, The Hour, Whither Vinokourov?, Three Wheels?, Hamilton world's, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted
  • November 6 letters - Cyclist of the year?, Tour 2004, Bobby Julich at world's, Heather French Henry, Whither Vinokourov?, Amateur racing in France?, Six Day Bike Rider
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on